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Ten Favourite Novels (2)

Mention of ‘The Magic Pudding’ in List 1 prompted thought about ten influential children’s books, books that had an impact at the time, and still do.

Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll): The main character is pure reason meeting the absurdity of the social world, making them adult books written to amuse, but usually confuse, children.

We are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (Maurice Sendak): All of his books are a gift, but I especially like this one because it dares to deal head-on with homelessness and the mistreatment of children, and how when we learn compassion things change.

The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame): A microcosm of Edwardian England, though I have wanted to write in heroic couplets a sequel where they all end up on the Western Front: Toad as an irresponsible idiot general, Ratty as a poetry-spouting captain, Mole as the private who goes ‘over the top’, and Badger as the army chaplain, epitome of English conscience, who wishes they’d all just stayed home.

The Young Visiters (Daisy Ashford): The title is correct, as is the spelling throughout this artless masterpiece written by a nine-year-old child for adults.

Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne): Pooh Sticks predates Samuel Beckett in making something out of next to nothing, while the geography of the ‘expotition’ to the North Pole simulates how we imagine the rest of the world without having to go there.

The Castafiore Emerald (Hergé): The unique Tintin story where the plot is based on an enigma rather than an adventure, as much ado about nothing is only resolved in the final frame on the last page.

Eloise (Kay Thompson): The antithesis of the ‘poor little rich kid’, Eloise makes innocent havoc wherever she goes, though mainly on her stamping ground of the Plaza Hotel NYC, which she shares with her “rawther marvellous” English Nanny.

Comet in Moominland (Tove Jansson): When we read books to our children we experience a second childhood, as happened for me reading these fantastical stories to my daughter, full of magic and the Northern Lights.

The Tailor of Gloucester (Beatrix Potter): My childhood copies of her books have fallen apart from enthusiasm and this one, like all her books a story of the actions of grace, is no exception.

The ‘Bulldog’ books (Arthur Catherall): Ripping yarns about a tugboat in the South China Sea that took on pirates, swindlers, smugglers &c., that I borrowed madly one after the other when I was about ten from the Moorabbin Public Library, Jasper Road, Bentleigh.


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